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#TheCovidBusiness

thinkin

Who are the biggest Covid profiteers?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available. The pandemic created sudden and huge demand for all kinds of things that were in short supply, from hand sanitiser to PPE, in turn creating the perfect conditions for unscrupulous businesspeople to drive up prices. Early in the pandemic, media attention in the UK especially focused on cronyism – government officials were accused of leveraging their priviledged access to funding, and to PPE supply chains, to line their own pockets. Now, questions are being asked about the behaviour of some vaccine manufacturers, around unfair pricing, contract fulfilment and communications about the safety and efficacy of ‘competitor’ vaccines. What do we know about the ethics of major pharmaceutical companies before the pandemic, and how might this affect our understanding of what’s happened since?  You can order Billy’s book here. editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Billy KenberAward-winning reporter for The Times specialising in the pharmaceutical industry. His work has been recognised by the UK Press Awards, the British Journalism Awards and the Medical Journalists’ Association. He is the author of Sick Money: The Truth About The Global Pharmaceutical Industry Ceri ThomasEditor and Partner, Tortoise Dr Raj ThamotheramCo-Founder of the Pharma Shareowners Group and Pharma Futures Fatima HassanDirector/Founder of the Health Justice Initiative (HJI) Max LawsonHead of Inequality Policy, Oxfam

thinkin

Covid corruption: how much money has been wasted on the Bounce Back Loans?

Pharmaceutical companies haven’t always had the best reputation. “Keep your eye on this issue: the pharmaceutical industry in the United States has never lost a political struggle, Stephen – never lost. They are so powerful they’ve got 1,500 lobbyists in Washington D.C, they make enormous campaign contributions. They never lose, and the result is they can charge you any price they want, any day of the week.”Bernie Sanders campaign video  “Big pharma”, as the industry’s biggest companies are sometimes known, was often in the news for its aggressive business tactics and accused again and again of putting profits before people. “Well, in the meantime, a lot of people get their prescription drugs and have a bit of sticker shock, but wait til you hear this. The 32-year-old head of a pharmaceutical company, the face of global outrage this morning because he raised the price of a life saving drug overnight by 5000%. It’s a controversial decision and he is defending it.” NBC But the Covid-19 pandemic showed the industry’s potential for public good, and provided an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to scrub their public image. They even began collaborating with their rivals in an attempt to find a vaccine, and the results were unprecedented, rapid, and life-saving. “And now to that breaking news from AstraZeneca overnight. The pharmaceutical company says its vaccine may be 90% effective in late stage trials, making it the third drug maker now to produce a highly effective vaccine.” ABC News In October 2020 Moderna, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies, even said that it wouldn’t be enforcing its Covid vaccine patents during the pandemic.  This meant it wouldn’t deter others from developing similar vaccines – especially ones that were targeting low-and-middle-income countries. But the era of pharmaceutical collaboration may be over.  “We’ve got developing news in the world of pharma. Moderna says it is suing rival vaccine maker Pfizer and its partner BioNTech over the technology used to make its COVID 19 vaccines.” Yahoo Last week, Moderna filed a surprise lawsuit in the Massachusetts District Court in the US, and a court in Germany. They say that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine relies on technology that Moderna developed and patented. “Moderna, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was an innovator in the messenger RNA vaccine technology, which teaches human cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response. That enabled unprecedented speed in developing the Covid-19 vaccine.”Reuters Both Pfizer and Moderna produced vaccines using messenger RNA – or mRNA, which was a largely experimental technology until the Covid pandemic accelerated vaccine trials. But Moderna’s lawsuit isn’t about mRNA on the whole. It’s about two specific technologies. Firstly, Moderna says Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine has the exact same chemical modifications to the mRNA as its patented Spikevax technology. These chemical modifications essentially prevent the body from having an adverse reaction to the vaccine. The other part of the lawsuit hinges around something called lipid nanoparticles, or LNPs.  “What Moderna is focusing on is the delivery method. And that is what, if you’ve ever heard the term lipid nanoparticles, that’s what was used to help deliver that vaccine formula into the arms of individuals. Now that is the crux of what Moderna is suing for saying that they developed this over time and overcame the problem and solved the problem of how to deliver the vaccine formula into the body without it spurring a, basically like a response, immune response that was negative.”Yahoo Moderna says it developed LNP technology when it created a vaccine for the MERS coronavirus. They say that this technology was central to the speedy rollout of Covid vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech are yet to countersue, but they did provide a statement: “Pfizer/BioNTech has not yet fully reviewed the complaint, but we are surprised by the litigation given the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.”Pfizer and BioNTech statement They said they will “vigorously defend against the allegations of the lawsuit”. *** Pharmaceutical lawsuits are notoriously slow, and it might be years before we get a verdict on this case – if it even goes to court.  So what exactly is Moderna trying to achieve? Moderna isn’t seeking to take Pfizer or BioNTech’s vaccine off the market, but it does want a share of the profit. And that profit is sizeable.   “Last year Moderna and Pfizer reported $54 billion in Covid vaccine sales combined, Pfizer selling twice what Moderna did – the highest one-year total for a pharmaceutical product in history.”ABC The lawsuit may be complicated by the fact that Moderna previously promised not to enforce its mRNA patents over the course of the pandemic. That statement may be legally binding – and the pandemic isn’t yet over. Moderna says it updated its pledge in March 2022, saying that it expected rich countries to respect its patents and licences. The lawsuit specifies that the company is not seeking damages in countries where vaccine supplies are still a problem. If Moderna were to succeed, Pfizer and BioNTech would have to pay royalties on some of its vaccine sales. And the patent is about more than just Covid. “The stakes are high. mRNA technology is being used to develop drugs for everything from HIV to autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases to cancer.”ABC By protecting its patents, Moderna is trying to maximise its future revenue as mRNA technologies develop. And it’s not the first company to try this tactic, either.  Pfizer and BioNTech – and Moderna – are already facing multiple lawsuits from companies who say their technology infringes on their patents. Moderna is also in the midst of a legal dispute with the US government over who should be credited in a Covid patent. As the pandemic moves onto a new phase, it’s likely this lawsuit won’t be the last. Today’s episode was written and mixed by Patricia Clarke.

thinkin

Who are the biggest Covid profiteers?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available. The pandemic created sudden and huge demand for all kinds of things that were in short supply, from hand sanitiser to PPE, in turn creating the perfect conditions for unscrupulous businesspeople to drive up prices. Early in the pandemic, media attention in the UK especially focused on cronyism – government officials were accused of leveraging their priviledged access to funding, and to PPE supply chains, to line their own pockets. Now, questions are being asked about the behaviour of some vaccine manufacturers, around unfair pricing, contract fulfilment and communications about the safety and efficacy of ‘competitor’ vaccines. What do we know about the ethics of major pharmaceutical companies before the pandemic, and how might this affect our understanding of what’s happened since?  You can order Billy’s book here. editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Billy KenberAward-winning reporter for The Times specialising in the pharmaceutical industry. His work has been recognised by the UK Press Awards, the British Journalism Awards and the Medical Journalists’ Association. He is the author of Sick Money: The Truth About The Global Pharmaceutical Industry Ceri ThomasEditor and Partner, Tortoise Dr Raj ThamotheramCo-Founder of the Pharma Shareowners Group and Pharma Futures Fatima HassanDirector/Founder of the Health Justice Initiative (HJI) Max LawsonHead of Inequality Policy, Oxfam

thinkin

Covid corruption: how much money has been wasted on the Bounce Back Loans?

Pharmaceutical companies haven’t always had the best reputation. “Keep your eye on this issue: the pharmaceutical industry in the United States has never lost a political struggle, Stephen – never lost. They are so powerful they’ve got 1,500 lobbyists in Washington D.C, they make enormous campaign contributions. They never lose, and the result is they can charge you any price they want, any day of the week.”Bernie Sanders campaign video  “Big pharma”, as the industry’s biggest companies are sometimes known, was often in the news for its aggressive business tactics and accused again and again of putting profits before people. “Well, in the meantime, a lot of people get their prescription drugs and have a bit of sticker shock, but wait til you hear this. The 32-year-old head of a pharmaceutical company, the face of global outrage this morning because he raised the price of a life saving drug overnight by 5000%. It’s a controversial decision and he is defending it.” NBC But the Covid-19 pandemic showed the industry’s potential for public good, and provided an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to scrub their public image. They even began collaborating with their rivals in an attempt to find a vaccine, and the results were unprecedented, rapid, and life-saving. “And now to that breaking news from AstraZeneca overnight. The pharmaceutical company says its vaccine may be 90% effective in late stage trials, making it the third drug maker now to produce a highly effective vaccine.” ABC News In October 2020 Moderna, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies, even said that it wouldn’t be enforcing its Covid vaccine patents during the pandemic.  This meant it wouldn’t deter others from developing similar vaccines – especially ones that were targeting low-and-middle-income countries. But the era of pharmaceutical collaboration may be over.  “We’ve got developing news in the world of pharma. Moderna says it is suing rival vaccine maker Pfizer and its partner BioNTech over the technology used to make its COVID 19 vaccines.” Yahoo Last week, Moderna filed a surprise lawsuit in the Massachusetts District Court in the US, and a court in Germany. They say that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine relies on technology that Moderna developed and patented. “Moderna, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was an innovator in the messenger RNA vaccine technology, which teaches human cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response. That enabled unprecedented speed in developing the Covid-19 vaccine.”Reuters Both Pfizer and Moderna produced vaccines using messenger RNA – or mRNA, which was a largely experimental technology until the Covid pandemic accelerated vaccine trials. But Moderna’s lawsuit isn’t about mRNA on the whole. It’s about two specific technologies. Firstly, Moderna says Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine has the exact same chemical modifications to the mRNA as its patented Spikevax technology. These chemical modifications essentially prevent the body from having an adverse reaction to the vaccine. The other part of the lawsuit hinges around something called lipid nanoparticles, or LNPs.  “What Moderna is focusing on is the delivery method. And that is what, if you’ve ever heard the term lipid nanoparticles, that’s what was used to help deliver that vaccine formula into the arms of individuals. Now that is the crux of what Moderna is suing for saying that they developed this over time and overcame the problem and solved the problem of how to deliver the vaccine formula into the body without it spurring a, basically like a response, immune response that was negative.”Yahoo Moderna says it developed LNP technology when it created a vaccine for the MERS coronavirus. They say that this technology was central to the speedy rollout of Covid vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech are yet to countersue, but they did provide a statement: “Pfizer/BioNTech has not yet fully reviewed the complaint, but we are surprised by the litigation given the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.”Pfizer and BioNTech statement They said they will “vigorously defend against the allegations of the lawsuit”. *** Pharmaceutical lawsuits are notoriously slow, and it might be years before we get a verdict on this case – if it even goes to court.  So what exactly is Moderna trying to achieve? Moderna isn’t seeking to take Pfizer or BioNTech’s vaccine off the market, but it does want a share of the profit. And that profit is sizeable.   “Last year Moderna and Pfizer reported $54 billion in Covid vaccine sales combined, Pfizer selling twice what Moderna did – the highest one-year total for a pharmaceutical product in history.”ABC The lawsuit may be complicated by the fact that Moderna previously promised not to enforce its mRNA patents over the course of the pandemic. That statement may be legally binding – and the pandemic isn’t yet over. Moderna says it updated its pledge in March 2022, saying that it expected rich countries to respect its patents and licences. The lawsuit specifies that the company is not seeking damages in countries where vaccine supplies are still a problem. If Moderna were to succeed, Pfizer and BioNTech would have to pay royalties on some of its vaccine sales. And the patent is about more than just Covid. “The stakes are high. mRNA technology is being used to develop drugs for everything from HIV to autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases to cancer.”ABC By protecting its patents, Moderna is trying to maximise its future revenue as mRNA technologies develop. And it’s not the first company to try this tactic, either.  Pfizer and BioNTech – and Moderna – are already facing multiple lawsuits from companies who say their technology infringes on their patents. Moderna is also in the midst of a legal dispute with the US government over who should be credited in a Covid patent. As the pandemic moves onto a new phase, it’s likely this lawsuit won’t be the last. Today’s episode was written and mixed by Patricia Clarke.

thinkin

Is covid cover for corruption?

Pharmaceutical companies haven’t always had the best reputation. “Keep your eye on this issue: the pharmaceutical industry in the United States has never lost a political struggle, Stephen – never lost. They are so powerful they’ve got 1,500 lobbyists in Washington D.C, they make enormous campaign contributions. They never lose, and the result is they can charge you any price they want, any day of the week.”Bernie Sanders campaign video  “Big pharma”, as the industry’s biggest companies are sometimes known, was often in the news for its aggressive business tactics and accused again and again of putting profits before people. “Well, in the meantime, a lot of people get their prescription drugs and have a bit of sticker shock, but wait til you hear this. The 32-year-old head of a pharmaceutical company, the face of global outrage this morning because he raised the price of a life saving drug overnight by 5000%. It’s a controversial decision and he is defending it.” NBC But the Covid-19 pandemic showed the industry’s potential for public good, and provided an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to scrub their public image. They even began collaborating with their rivals in an attempt to find a vaccine, and the results were unprecedented, rapid, and life-saving. “And now to that breaking news from AstraZeneca overnight. The pharmaceutical company says its vaccine may be 90% effective in late stage trials, making it the third drug maker now to produce a highly effective vaccine.” ABC News In October 2020 Moderna, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies, even said that it wouldn’t be enforcing its Covid vaccine patents during the pandemic.  This meant it wouldn’t deter others from developing similar vaccines – especially ones that were targeting low-and-middle-income countries. But the era of pharmaceutical collaboration may be over.  “We’ve got developing news in the world of pharma. Moderna says it is suing rival vaccine maker Pfizer and its partner BioNTech over the technology used to make its COVID 19 vaccines.” Yahoo Last week, Moderna filed a surprise lawsuit in the Massachusetts District Court in the US, and a court in Germany. They say that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine relies on technology that Moderna developed and patented. “Moderna, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was an innovator in the messenger RNA vaccine technology, which teaches human cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response. That enabled unprecedented speed in developing the Covid-19 vaccine.”Reuters Both Pfizer and Moderna produced vaccines using messenger RNA – or mRNA, which was a largely experimental technology until the Covid pandemic accelerated vaccine trials. But Moderna’s lawsuit isn’t about mRNA on the whole. It’s about two specific technologies. Firstly, Moderna says Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine has the exact same chemical modifications to the mRNA as its patented Spikevax technology. These chemical modifications essentially prevent the body from having an adverse reaction to the vaccine. The other part of the lawsuit hinges around something called lipid nanoparticles, or LNPs.  “What Moderna is focusing on is the delivery method. And that is what, if you’ve ever heard the term lipid nanoparticles, that’s what was used to help deliver that vaccine formula into the arms of individuals. Now that is the crux of what Moderna is suing for saying that they developed this over time and overcame the problem and solved the problem of how to deliver the vaccine formula into the body without it spurring a, basically like a response, immune response that was negative.”Yahoo Moderna says it developed LNP technology when it created a vaccine for the MERS coronavirus. They say that this technology was central to the speedy rollout of Covid vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech are yet to countersue, but they did provide a statement: “Pfizer/BioNTech has not yet fully reviewed the complaint, but we are surprised by the litigation given the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology and developed by both BioNTech and Pfizer.”Pfizer and BioNTech statement They said they will “vigorously defend against the allegations of the lawsuit”. *** Pharmaceutical lawsuits are notoriously slow, and it might be years before we get a verdict on this case – if it even goes to court.  So what exactly is Moderna trying to achieve? Moderna isn’t seeking to take Pfizer or BioNTech’s vaccine off the market, but it does want a share of the profit. And that profit is sizeable.   “Last year Moderna and Pfizer reported $54 billion in Covid vaccine sales combined, Pfizer selling twice what Moderna did – the highest one-year total for a pharmaceutical product in history.”ABC The lawsuit may be complicated by the fact that Moderna previously promised not to enforce its mRNA patents over the course of the pandemic. That statement may be legally binding – and the pandemic isn’t yet over. Moderna says it updated its pledge in March 2022, saying that it expected rich countries to respect its patents and licences. The lawsuit specifies that the company is not seeking damages in countries where vaccine supplies are still a problem. If Moderna were to succeed, Pfizer and BioNTech would have to pay royalties on some of its vaccine sales. And the patent is about more than just Covid. “The stakes are high. mRNA technology is being used to develop drugs for everything from HIV to autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases to cancer.”ABC By protecting its patents, Moderna is trying to maximise its future revenue as mRNA technologies develop. And it’s not the first company to try this tactic, either.  Pfizer and BioNTech – and Moderna – are already facing multiple lawsuits from companies who say their technology infringes on their patents. Moderna is also in the midst of a legal dispute with the US government over who should be credited in a Covid patent. As the pandemic moves onto a new phase, it’s likely this lawsuit won’t be the last. Today’s episode was written and mixed by Patricia Clarke.

thinkin

Sensemaker Live – Start-ups in lock-down: how should the state step in?

New businesses are vulnerable at the best of times. They’re now at the mercy of a once-in-a-century event, and in the UK they have to show they’re viable to qualify for emergency finance. Is that wise given the economy will need job-creators more than ever when the Covid crisis eases? Is this government living up to its commitment to the tech sector as well as others in Europe and North America, or are these precisely the circumstances in which risk-takers should be looking to themselves and their investors? In this Sensemaker Live ThinkIn we’ll attempt to sort the good sense from the special pleading. We’ll ask members, investors and entrepreneurs if there’s a balance to be struck between vulnerability, agility and sound governance to preserve what should be the most vibrant sector of any economy. Who dives, who thrives, who just about survives – and why? Chair: James Harding, Editor and Co-founder, Tortoise Our special guests include: Jeff Lynn is co-founder of Seedrs, the equity crowdfunding platform, and chairman of Coadec Brent Hoberman CBE, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Founders Forum, Founders Factory and firstminute Capital How does a digital ThinkIn work? A digital ThinkIn is like a video conference, hosted by a Tortoise editor, that takes place at the advertised time of the event. Digital ThinkIns are new to Tortoise. Now that our newsroom has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we feel it’s more important than ever that we ‘get together’ to talk about the world and what’s going on. The link to join the conversation will be emailed to you after you have registered for your free ticket to attend. When you click the link, you enter the digital ThinkIn and can join a live conversation from wherever you are in the world.  If you have any questions or get stuck, please get in touch with us at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.com.  What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the (virtual) table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. This ThinkIn is in partnership with Santander. How we work with partners We want to be open about the business model of our journalism, too. At Tortoise, we don’t take ads. We don’t want to chase eyeballs or sell data. We don’t want to add to the clutter of life with ever more invasive ads. We think that ads force newsrooms to produce more and more stories, more and more quickly. We want to do less, better. Our journalism is funded by our members and our partners. We are establishing Founding Partnerships with a small group of businesses willing to back a new form of journalism, enable the public debate, share their expertise and communicate their point of view. Those companies, of course, know that we are a journalistic enterprise. Our independence is non-negotiable. If we ever have to choose between the relationship and the story, we’ll always choose the story. We value the support that those partners give us to deliver original reporting, patient investigations and considered analysis. We believe in opening up journalism so we can examine issues and develop ideas for the 21st Century. We want to do this with our members and with our partners. We want to give everyone a seat at the table.